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HomeHealth and LifestyleDanger Baloch and studio for Lyari’s musicians | The Express Tribune

Danger Baloch and studio for Lyari’s musicians | The Express Tribune

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Cofounder of rap group Lyari Underground talks fundraising call in an exclusive interview


KARACHI:

A lot had changed for rap group Lyari Underground by the time they featured on PSL 6’s album Taranay. Laibo, as their track is called, was an unmistakably 2021 offering, both in its sonic landscape and production value. What began in 2008 in streaming culture’s infancy, courtesy of fledgling SoundCloud profiles and archaic Bluetooth shares, had found the platform, if not the clams.

However, Asadullah Baloch will earnestly tell you that just as much is yet to change. Asad aka Danger Baloch cofounded Lyari Underground and has worked as a rapper, producer and manager for over a decade. In all this time, he has witnessed the group clinch a Coke Studio song, a guest appearance on Diplo’s show in Islamabad and a Lux Style Award nomination in 2018. Now he wants to give Lyari its own recording studio.

A studio of one’s own

“We have initiated a fundraising campaign to build a music studio for local musicians, providing them with the resources they need to flourish and share their talent with the world,” the artist says in a recent press release. A crowdfunding campaign on the platform Go Get Funding can be found in hopes of setting up a dedicated space for Lyari’s emerging artists.

The campaign outlines the equipment to be acquired and breaks down anticipated costs. Asad has urged fellow musicians to contribute any spare equipment they no longer use or require. “The studio will also serve as a creative hub, offering a space for musicians to compose, collaborate, and record their music. We aim to break down barriers and ensure that financial constraints don’t hinder the growth of these talented individuals.”

To speak more on the subject, The Express Tribune reached out to Asad for an online interview, an exercise that revealed more crumbling walls. “11AM is not possible. We are struggling with a massive bout of load shedding here in Lyari,” his lament is shared by millions of Pakistanis. For musicians already up in arms about systemic violence and exclusion, Karachi’s rotting infrastructure can be done without.

“We remained ‘underground’ for the longest time,” Asad says, finally seated for the interview. “Then we had many opportunities. Our struggle bore fruit.” According to the Baloch singer, his fundraising call speaks to the various trials his band had to experience. “When we started making music and needed a studio, we would save up our pocket money to pay others to use their recording space.”

A long way

A costly affair, continuing things this way was never viable for the ambitious rap group if they were to last. Then came a makeshift studio in Asad’s Lyari home when his family moved houses. “It was Lyari Underground’s studio for three years. We threw in a couch and all our equipment in one room,” he recounts. The best of their efforts indeed, lasted them for years, through thick and thin of turbulent power supply and funds.

With most of the equipment breathing its last by now, a lack of a functional and affordable studio is to blame for the band’s absence from the music scene for some while. “My family moved back so I had to discontinue the studio at home,” Asad explains. “We don’t have a space anymore. I have been thinking for a long time that something needs to be done. Hence, the fundraiser.”

A physical space tops the musician’s list of requisites. “Currently, me and the boys are all working individually. So I need to figure out the space first, then the equipment which is the main deal. I want to put things back into motion.”

Safeguarding the element of inclusivity that shapes much of the town’s socially conscious music, Lyari remains the chosen space for Asad’s dream studio. However, this is only the beginning of his aspirations. Given the trouble caused by recurrent power shortages, a solar panel fitting is a consideration for the long term. “All of us artists have lots of ideas. Others are contributing with their energy and high spirits. Of course, funds are the first imperative.”

Rage against the machine

As far as dreams go, Asad’s call for resources is only attending to a bare minimum. He rightfully points out that a recording studio of one’s own is as ordinary as it gets for any established artist. More resources, on the other hand, can be the start of something new. “The way Coke Studio returns every season, I wish to see 7-8 live session recordings come out of Lyari every year. These can be shared on YouTube, Instagram and so on.”

Lyari Underground’s use of rap is every bit as loyal to its subversive tradition as the global cultures will have you believe. “Rap is about gates and exclusion. Wherever there is inequality and neglect… It’s a rebellion against all at the top of the ladder who walk their subordinates like puppets.”

Asad’s protest against those whose concern evaporates the moment the election cycle wraps up rings true for all Pakistanis, albeit more for some. “I am a musician. When I sit down to work, I need WiFi and my laptop. Both need electricity to work. The power goes off for up to 18 hours. We get merely 6 hours to do everything every day.”

Rap is a powerful driving force amid piling grievances. “We use rap to articulate our suffering. Rap gives us freedom through music,” Asad tells The Express Tribune.

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